of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, 1995
Article 14. Discipline in the Church
We believe that the
practice of discipline in the church is a sign of God's offer of
forgiveness and transforming grace to believers who are moving away
from faithful discipleship or who have been overtaken by sin.
Discipline is intended to liberate erring brothers and sisters from
sin, to enable them to return to a right relationship with God, and to
restore them to fellowship in the church. It also gives integrity to
the church's witness and contributes to the credibility of the gospel
message in the world.
According to the teaching
of Jesus Christ and the apostles, all believers participate in the
church's mutual care and discipline as appropriate. Jesus gave the
church authority to discern right and wrong and to forgive sins when
there is repentance or to retain sins when there is no repentance.  When becoming members of the church,
believers therefore commit themselves to give and receive counsel
within the faith community on important matters of doctrine and conduct.
pastoral care, and discipline should normally lead to confession,
forgiveness, and reconciliation. Corrective discipline in the church
should be exercised in a redemptive manner. The basic pattern begins
with "speaking the truth in love," in direct conversation between the
erring person and another member. 
Depending on the person's response, admonition may continue within a
broader circle. This usually includes a pastor or congregational
leader. If necessary, the matter may finally be brought to the
congregation. A brother or sister who repents is to be forgiven and
encouraged in making the needed change.
If the erring member
persists in sin without repentance and rejects even the admonition of
the congregation, membership may be suspended. Suspension of membership
is the recognition that persons have separated themselves from the body
of Christ.  When this occurs, the
church continues to pray for them and seeks to restore them to its
We acknowledge that
discipline, rightly understood and practiced, undergirds the integrity
of the church's witness in word and deed. Persistent and uncorrected
false teaching and sinful conduct among Christians undermine the
proclamation and credibility of the gospel in the world.  As a sign of forgiveness and transforming
grace, discipline exemplifies the message of forgiveness and new life
in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. As a means of
strengthening good teaching and sustaining moral conduct, it helps to
build faithfulness in understanding and practice.
(1) Matt. 18:15-22; John 20:21-23; Gal. 6:1-2;
(2) Eph. 4:15; Matt. 18:15.
(3) 1 Cor. 5:3-5.
(4) 2 Cor. 2:5-11.
(5) Matt. 5:14-18; Rom. 2:21ff.
1. Anabaptists and Mennonites in sixteenth-century Europe saw
discipline as vital for pastoral care and for the well-being of the
church. Indeed, they considered discipline to be as important for
church renewal as believers baptism and participation in the Lord's
traditionally emphasized church discipline. Discipline has sometimes
been neglected in many Mennonite congregations, in part because of some
misuses, in part because of cultural and social influences.
Both the misuse and the
neglect of discipline undermine the church's life and witness. Both
misuse and neglect work against the important correcting, renewing, and
redemptive purposes of church discipline in pastoral care, nurture, and
2. In some church
traditions, responsibility for church discipline has been limited to
particular ministerial offices, such as pastor or bishop. From a
Mennonite perspective, discipline is related, first of all, to the
mutual care of members for one another. According to the rule of Christ
(Matt. 18:15-18), all believers are to offer mutual encouragement,
correction, and forgiveness to each other. For that reason, it is good
to include a promise to give and receive counsel when persons are
received into church membership.
Pastors and other church
leaders have a special responsibility to give guidance and to carry out
discipline in the life of the church (Acts 20:28-31; Tit. 1:5-11; 1
Pet. 5:1-4; Heb. 13:17). They are to exercise their responsibility
lovingly, in gentleness of spirit, and without partiality.
3. Pastors and other
church leaders who move away from faithful discipleship or are
overtaken by sin are not exempt from discipline in the church. Because
of their representative ministries, their teaching and conduct can
greatly help or hurt members of the church and the church's witness in
the world. They are therefore accountable to the congregation which
they serve and to the broader church.
Pastors, teachers, and
other church leaders may sometimes be victims of gossip and unjust
accusations. Allegations against them should be tested carefully (1
Tim. 5:19). Not only do the failures of ministerial leaders damage the
church's life and witness; unfounded accusations against them also do
injury to them and the church.
4. The New Testament
gives several reasons for suspending fellowship or for excommunication:
denying that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, persisting in sinful
conduct without repentance, and causing divisions in the church by
opposing apostolic teaching (for example, 1 John 4:1-6; 1 Cor. 5:1-13;
5. For more discussion
related to church discipline, see also "Discipleship and the Christian
Life" (Article 17) and "Christian Spirituality" (Article 18).
the delegates of Mennonite Church General Assembly, and of the General
Conference Mennonite Church Tricentennial Session, July 28, 1995,
Wichita, Kansas. Copyright © 1995 by Herald Press Scottdale PA
15683. Used by permission. Order print copies of Confession of
Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, and Summary Statement,
Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, From Herald Press, Scottdale,
Pa. Worship resources
based on this confession, and translations
are also available.
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